Emotional Facebook posts are contagious, a new PLOS ONE published study says. An analysis of more than one billion anonymous status updates posted by more than 100 million Facebook users across the United States yielded a contagious posting trend stemming from other emotional Facebook posts.
A collaborative team – made up of University of California, San Diego (UCSD), Yale, and Facebook researchers – scrutinized the generous sample of Facebook data collected between January 2009 and March 2012
To test the contagious emotional theory, researchers used rainfall to gauge how emotions might spread through the social network, explains CBS News.
They found Facebook posts expressing real life emotions regarding their feelings to something as innocuous as the weather infected others in cyberspace and dictated both good and bad moods of the friends and loved ones who read them; influencing the tone of their successive posts.
For every person whose posts were affected negatively by the weather, 1.29 percent of his or her friends posted similarly negative status updates.
Senior author James Fowler – a social scientist at the University of California, San Diego, who has spent years studying emotions and behaviors and how contagious they are – says in USA Today, “This is a new way for emotions to spread that didn’t exist before.”
However, the UCSD study isn’t the first to find positive and negative Facebook posts have a ripple effect. In prior research, reported by Social News Daily, a sample group of one million users and their 150 million friends were analyzed by Facebook data scientist Adam Kramer. He found negative terms seemed to spread more prolifically throughout a social group, appearing in subsequent posts, more so than positive ones.
In both studies negative Facebook posts spawn negative posts, and positive posts generate positive ones. However the UCSD study found positive ones were more likely to spread. Positive posts appeared to be even more contagious than negative ones. For every person who posted a positive status update, 1.75 percent of his or her friends also posted a positive status update.
When asked why positivity might be more contagious than negativity in the study, Fowler said: “Facebook is explicitly an environment that promotes and spreads a positivity. For instance, there is a ‘like’ button instead of a dislike button.”
[Photo Credit: Jonno Witts]